Suspect in Canada Terror Attack Had Been Ordered to Leave US

Abdulahi Sharif Credit Edmonton Police Department

OTTAWA — A Somali man suspected of carrying out what was called a terrorist attack in Alberta last weekend came to Canada and was declared a refugee after being ordered expelled from the United States several years ago, officials said on Wednesday.

The man, Abdulahi Sharif, 30, is accused of striking a police officer with a car and stabbing him outside a football stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday and later using a rental truck to hit four people elsewhere in the city. He faces five counts of attempted murder, five counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, one count of criminal flight causing bodily harm and one count of possession of a weapon.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said that Mr. Sharif showed signs of extremism two years ago, leading to an investigation, although no charges were brought against him.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement service said that it detained Mr. Sharif in July 2011 in California after he was found near the Mexican border without documentation, and that a judge in September of that year ordered him returned to Somalia. He was released from a detention center two months later, however, “due to a lack of likelihood of his removal in the reasonably foreseeable future,” the agency said.

Officials at the agency, citing privacy rules, declined to say why Mr. Sharif had been ordered out of the country, but confirmed that he was not the subject of criminal charges or a criminal investigation.

When American officials went to find Mr. Sharif in late January 2012 after he failed to check in with the immigration authorities, he had vanished.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Ralph Goodale, Canada’s public safety minister, said that Mr. Sharif had applied for asylum as a refugee at a Canadian border crossing in 2012 and was granted the status that year.

Normally, people making refugee claims after entering Canada from the United States are turned back under an agreement between the two countries.

But a provision in the agreement allows people to make refugee claims if they enter Canada outside an authorized point. That led to a steady flow of refugee claimants crossing illegally from New York State to Quebec at an abandoned road this summer, although that traffic dropped off significantly last month.

Mr. Bardsley confirmed that Mr. Sharif was granted an exception under the agreement to make his claim, but said he could not elaborate.

He said that a removal order in the United States did not necessarily prohibit people from entering Canada, and added of Mr. Sharif that “there was no information that would have raised any red flags when he entered Canada.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has expanded Canada’s efforts to allow the entry of refugees since taking office, said the government would review its procedures.

“We’re looking into the whole system and will reflect on whether we need to do things differently, certainly in the future, than the way they were done in 2012,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “But the priority is always making sure that we’re defending the values and rights of Canadians while keeping our communities safe.”

The country’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, told reporters in Brampton, Ontario, that the decision to give Mr. Sharif refugee status had been made by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, a quasi-judicial body that operates at arm’s length from the government.

(The New York Times)

Canadian Sanctions on Venezuela’s Maduro

Canada imposed on Friday sanctions on 40 Venezuelan senior officials, including President Nicolas Maduro, to punish what it called “anti-democratic behavior.”

The Canadian move came after similar steps by the United States, which has referred to Maduro as a “dictator.”

The measure, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement, aims to “send a clear message to key figures in the Maduro regime that their anti-democratic behavior has consequences.”

The installation in Venezuela last month of an all-powerful, loyalist assembly that supersedes the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly triggered international scorn.

Specifically, the sanctions seek to “maintain pressure on the government of Venezuela to restore constitutional order and respect the democratic rights of its people.”

They target 40 Venezuelan officials and individuals, including Maduro himself, who Ottawa says “played a key role in undermining the security, stability and integrity of democratic institutions of Venezuela.”

Others listed include Minister of Defense Vladimir Lopez, Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council, and Vice President Tareck El Aissami.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he believed there was a chance for a political solution.

“This is a situation that is obviously untenable. The violence … needs to end and we are looking to be helpful,” he told reporters at the United Nations.

Toys “R” Us Files for Bankruptcy

People walk past Toys R Us in Times Square the day after Christmas in the Manhattan borough of New York

Toys “R” Us Inc (IPO-TOYS.N) has filed for bankruptcy protection in a United States court, the company said, amid heavy debt and a tough environment for bricks and mortar stores.

The Chapter 11 filing by the biggest US toy store chain, to restructure $5 billion of long-term debt, is among the largest ever by a specialty retailer and casts doubt over the future of the company’s 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores, which remain open.

The chain which sells toys and baby products in the US as well 38 other countries and jurisdictions joins other traditional retailers that are struggling to compete with the likes of Amazon.

The company will “restructure its outstanding debt and establish a sustainable capital structure that will enable it to invest in long-term growth and fuel its aspirations to bring play to kids everywhere and be a best friend to parents,” Toys “R” Us said in a statement late Monday.

It noted that operations outside the US and Canada, “including its approximately 255 licensed stores and joint venture partnership in Asia,” are not part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

“Together with our investors, our objective is to work with our debtholders and other creditors to restructure the $5 billion of long-term debt on our balance sheet, which will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business, continue to improve the customer experience in our physical stores and online, and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide,” chairman and chief executive Dave Brandon said in the statement.

Various lenders including JPMorgan have agreed to infuse Toys “R” Us more than $3 billion which will “immediately improve the Company’s financial health and support its ongoing operations during the court-supervised process.”

The company’s approximately 1,600 Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores around the world — “the vast majority of which are profitable” -– will operate as usual, it said.

Panic, Fear among Lebanese after Embassies’ Security Warnings

Lebanon

Beirut – Western embassies in Lebanon issued security warnings during the past two days, causing panic and fear among the Lebanese people.

The security forces assured however that the situation is under control, even if it was delicate in wake of the battles in the northeastern border area of Arsal to expel ISIS terrorists. The expulsion had promoted fears of attacks by sleeper cells in the country.

The US Embassy in Beirut was the first to issue a warning two days ago. It was then followed by embassies of Canada and France within less than 24 hours. France limited the security threat to the upcoming 48 hours before the Lebanese army announced the arrest of a security cell that was planning to carry out terrorist attacks.

The army clarified that the military had taken necessary preemptive measures. It had received information that an ISIS cell, headed by Egyptian Fadi Ibrahim Ahmad, was planning to carry out an attack. It consequently carried out a number of raids, arresting 19 suspects linked to the cell. Ahmed is hiding in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh near the southern city of Sidon.

While the French embassy pointed out that its warning was linked to previous warnings by western embassies, the US Embassy refused to give more details.

“These warnings are based on information from a foreign intelligence agency,” the Interior Ministry said.

“Lebanese security services are following up to check their authenticity and accuracy… There is no cause for fear or overreacting,” added the ministry.

Further, the Ministry Foreign Affairs called on embassies to take into consideration the panic such statements cause on residents, Lebanese and foreigners.

King Abdullah II Hopes for Bigger Syria Ceasefire

London- King Abdullah II of Jordan said Tuesday he hopes that a recent ceasefire in southern Syria will spread to other parts of the country to lead to a negotiated peace.

“In Syria, we hope that the ceasefire in the southwest will be replicated elsewhere in the country, easing the way for a political solution that guarantees the country’s territorial integrity and ends the bloodshed,” the king told a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At the end of the monarch’s two-day state visit to Canada, Trudeau announced Can$45.3 million ($36.2 million US) to help support Syrian refugees in Jordan, as well as economic development and the empowerment of women in the kingdom.

The United Nations says Jordan is hosting more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, while the kingdom puts their actual number at 1.4 million.

Since the end of 2015, Canada has taken in about 40,000 Syrian refugees.

“Canada has warmly welcomed Syrian refugees and we hope that it continues its humanitarian policy,” King Abdullah II said.

The two leaders also called on entrepreneurs and companies in both Canada and Jordan to take advantage of a 2012 free trade agreement to boost bilateral trade.

Current bilateral trade is modest (less than Can$200 million) despite more than doubling over the past decade.

North Korea Releases Canadian Pastor after Two-Year Imprisonment

Korea

A Canadian pastor detained by North Korea in 2015 was released on Wednesday in a goodwill gesture by the Pyongyang, the official KCNA news agency said.

Hyeon Soo Lim, 61, was freed on “sick bail”, the agency announced after a Canadian government delegation arrived in Pyongyang to discuss the case.

The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier said that the delegation, led by his national security adviser, Daniel Jean, had arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

He was serving a life sentence with hard labor. He was arrested in 2015 for allegedly meddling in North Korean state affairs.

A court ordered Lim’s release “from the humanitarian viewpoint”, it said in a brief two-paragraph report.

The South Korean-born pastor had been accused of subversive acts against Pyongyang, an allegation which Canadian authorities strongly denied.

A Canadian delegation including national security adviser Daniel Jean visited Pyongyang this week to discuss the case.

“Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada as we continue to engage on this case,” said Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa before the release.

Lim’s family told local media they had become increasingly worried about his welfare since the death of American student Otto Warmbier in June.

Warmbier, sentenced last year to 15 years’ hard labour for trying to steal a propaganda item from his hotel during a tour, died in a Cincinnati hospital just days after being released in a coma. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Three US citizens remain in custody as relations with Washington worsen sharply. The North said earlier Wednesday it was considering a missile strike near US bases in Guam.

That comment came hours after US President Donald Trump threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury” over its missile program.

At the time of Lim’s arrest, other members of the close-knit circle of ethnic Korean missionaries in Canada and the United States called him one of the most influential Christian missionaries operating in North Korea.

He had visited the country dozens of times, working with orphanages and nursing homes.

But some projects he worked on, including a noodle plant and flour mills, were linked to associates of Jang Song-Thaek, the purged uncle of leader Kim Jong-Un.

Jang was arrested and executed for treason in December 2013.

Lim told CNN last year that he spent his days in prison digging holes. “I wasn’t originally a laborer so the labor was hard at first,” he said, his head shaven.

Pyongyang views foreign missionaries with deep suspicion, though it allows some to undertake humanitarian work.

South Korea, the US and others often accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions, and foreigners have said after their release that their declarations of guilt had been coerced while in North Korean custody.

A number of Christian missionaries — mostly ethnic Koreans who are US citizens — have been arrested in the past, with some of them only allowed to return home after intervention by high-profile US political figures.

Trudeau’s spokesman Cameron Ahmad said the government considered Lim’s health of “utmost importance” but did not give more details about the delegation.

Canada does not have diplomatic offices in Pyongyang and relies on Sweden to handle consular issues. Lim met with the Swedish ambassador at least twice this year and met Canadian officials in December.

Postman Repeatedly Attacked By a Crow In Canada

Crow

London- A crow prevented a postman from resuming deliveries to a street in Canada after attacking him frequently.

Canada Post refused to deliver letters to a Vancouver neighbourhood after the bird swooped on the worker, leaving him bleeding.

“The notorious crow, known as Canuck, first found fame last year after his search for shiny objects led to steal a knife from a crime scene,” Evening Standard reported.

Shawn Bergman, one of the people living in the neighborhood, said on his Facebook page that he and two neighbours stopped receiving post for two months after the postman was attacked in April.

He said he believed the crow had been defending his nest, writing: “Canuck encountered the mail carrier one day and proceeded to bite him a few times causing broken skin and bleeding.

“I felt horrible when I found out that Canuck had caused harm to someone. But I understand Crow nesting season and the perils that come with it.

“This lasted for a couple of days until Canada Post stopped mail delivery to my home and to two other homes.”

Canuck’s behaviour had led to the bird receiving “death threats”, Mr Bergman added.

A Canada Post spokeswoman stated that: “Unfortunately, our employees have been attacked and injured by a crow in that Vancouver neighbourhood while attempting to deliver the mail.

“Regular mail delivery was suspended to three homes due to it being unsafe for our employees.

“We are monitoring the situation when delivering the mail to other residents on the street. If our employees believe it is safe to deliver to those three addresses, they do so.”

In May last year Canuck swooped to steal a blade allegedly used by a knifeman to threaten police officers.

A Battle Over Prayer in Schools Tests Canada’s Multiculturalism

An elder demonstrated the call to prayer at a mosque in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.CreditIan Willms for The New York Times

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — The troubles began over sermons.

For nearly two decades, Muslim students in the Peel School District, outside Toronto, had been allowed to pray independently on Fridays, part of a policy in many Canadian provinces to accommodate religious beliefs in public schools.

Last fall, the school board decided to standardize the prayer sessions and offer six preapproved sermons that the children could recite, rather than let them use their own.

Muslim students protested, saying the move violated their right to free speech, and the board reversed itself, allowing the children to write their own sermons.

But the dispute unleashed a storm of protest that continued through this spring.

Demonstrators are picketing school board meetings, arguments are erupting on social media about whether religious accommodation is tantamount to special treatment, and there is a petition drive to abolish prayer in the public schools. In April, a local imam who supported the board received a death threat. The local police now guard the school board’s meetings.

The turmoil is one reflection of how Canada’s growing diversity is encountering powerful headwinds, especially in places with significant Muslim populations.

“Although we have a policy of multiculturalism, for most Canadians there is an expectation that immigrants will conform to the mainstream,” said Jeffrey Reitz, the director of the Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies program at the University of Toronto. “Religious accommodations have been made to various groups, and you’re going to get a backlash once in a while.”

The problems in the Peel schools are a particular kind of conflict in a diverse society, social scientists say — involving immigrants and minorities who challenge aspects of Canada’s cherished multiculturalism.

Since 2013, some Muslim parents in metropolitan Toronto have asked schools to exempt their children from mandatory provincial music classes, citing their belief that Islam forbids listening to or playing musical instruments.

Like its neighbor to the south, Canada is a country of immigrants, helping to fuel a national ethos that celebrates diversity. More than 20 percent of the Canadian population in 2011 was foreign born, a figure that is expected to reach nearly 30 percent by 2031, according to government estimates. In cities like Toronto and Vancouver, the proportion of ethnic minorities could top 60 percent.

The demographic changes have been especially pronounced in metropolitan Toronto, a patchwork of cities and suburban towns bustling with an array of languages and faiths.

School boards like the one in the Peel district are at the forefront of the battles over multiculturalism. The district is among the country’s most diverse, with nearly 60 percent of all residents described as “visible minority,” or nonwhite, according to the 2011 census.

It includes large numbers of Chinese, Filipinos and blacks, but nearly half are categorized as South Asian, a group that includes Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. The Peel district is home to about 12 percent of Canada’s Muslim population.

In allowing prayer in its schools, the Peel district relied on a provision in the Ontario Human Rights Code that the Ontario Human Rights Commission has interpreted as requiring government-funded schools — both public and Catholic — to “accommodate” students in observing their personal faiths.

Other provinces in Canada have similar policies.

For Farina Siddiqui, 43, a Muslim activist whose children attend public and Catholic schools in the Peel district, allowing students to worship once a week in school is a matter of religious freedom.

“We’re not asking for schools to provide a prayer hall for everyone to practice a religion,” she said. “We just ask for the right to have a space to pray.” She supported permitting the children to write their own sermons.

Tarun Arora, 40, who works for an outsourcing call center company and immigrated to Canada from India in 2003, said school boards should not be endorsing sermons or allowing prayer in his children’s public schools at all. He wants the schools to be completely secular.

“I’m sending my kids to school for education, but the schools are being treated as religious places, and this is not right,” Mr. Arora said.

He is a member of Keep Religion Out of Our Public Schools, also known as Kroops, a group that formed in January when the board decided to allow the children to write their own sermons. The group has protested outside recent school board meetings and says it plans to bring a lawsuit challenging the policy of allowing prayer in the Peel schools, arguing that the law does not explicitly permit it.

Another group with a similar name, Religion Out of Public Schools, began an online petition to eliminate religious congregation and faith clubs in Canadian schools. It has garnered over 6,500 signatures from people across Canada and the United States.

Many of the petition comments specifically criticize Islam. But in interviews, three members of the group, all of them Indian-Canadian, said they opposed the practice of any religion in public schools, not just Islam.

Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, which is charged with interpreting the Ontario code, said schools had a duty to accommodate religious belief.

(The New York Times)

House Hunting in … Canada

House

New York- This two-story, stone-and-stucco house is in the established Elbow Park neighborhood of Calgary, the largest city in Alberta Province, Canada, with a population of 1.4 million. A short drive from downtown, it sits on more than a quarter of an acre, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac near the scenic Elbow River.

The house is nearly 4,000 square feet, with three bedrooms and three full and two partial bathrooms, as well as a finished basement and a three-car attached garage. A separate carriage house, converted from a horse barn built in the early 1900s, could be used as guest or staff quarters.

“There are few properties in the area that have a carriage house,” said one of the listing agents, Dennis J. Plintz, of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “And the lot size is two or three times larger than most other homes in the community.”

The house was built in 2005 in a traditional style, with a long slate walkway snaking up to a large wooden front door and stone porch. Inside, the style is more contemporary, with recessed lighting and hardwood floors throughout.

On one side of the central tiled foyer is a formal living-and-dining area with a fireplace and oversize front-facing window. On the other is a great room with another fireplace, a coffered ceiling and three sets of French doors that open to a landscaped yard with a stone patio, a built-in barbecue and an outdoor fireplace. The great room also contains a library and casual dining area; beyond that is an open chef’s kitchen equipped with stainless-steel appliances, wood cabinets, a butler’s pantry and a central island with seating. A laundry room and a half-bath are on the first level as well.

A grand staircase leads upstairs from the foyer to three en-suite bedrooms. The master suite has a spalike bath, a seating area, a large dressing room and a Juliet balcony facing the front yard.

There is additional living space in the finished basement and carriage house: The basement has a family room with a fireplace and a workout area with a sauna; the carriage house features an open living area, loft space and a bathroom.

The Elbow Park neighborhood, in the southwest quadrant of Calgary, is one of the city’s oldest and wealthiest communities, home to many executives of the oil and gas companies in the area, Mr. Plintz said. Calgary International Airport is about 15 miles away, and ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies are less than a two-hour drive.

MARKET OVERVIEW

The Calgary housing market was more or less unscathed by the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. Plintz said. “When North America crashed, we did not and continued to grow through the next few years.”

But in the past couple of years, Calgary has had its worst recession in decades, precipitated by weakness in the oil and gas industry, and the housing market is still recovering. The luxury market was hit especially hard, as companies downsized and unemployment levels rose. “This would have been a five-million-dollar house at one point just a few years ago,” Mr. Plintz said of his listing.

There have been signs of late that Calgary’s housing market, and luxury in particular, is slowly coming back. Sales volume has risen as sellers have lowered their expectations on prices, agents said, and buyers on the sidelines have re-entered the market.

“We were in limbo last year,” said Stewart J. Lowe, an agent for Calgary Dream Homes. “But things really started moving significantly in the last month. We’ve had some multiple offers, and the higher end is moving again.”

WHO BUYS IN CALGARY

Most buyers in Elbow Park are locals, real estate agents said. But Calgary, in general, draws a number of foreign buyers, including Americans.

Since the recession, the city has seen a slowdown in foreign purchases, agents said. Lately, though, there has been increased interest from Asian buyers, particularly those from Hong Kong and China, who find the area appealing because it is less expensive than neighboring British Columbia Province, Mr. Lowe said: “Over the last 12 months, the Chinese have been looking hard at Calgary.”

BUYING BASICS

Although international home buyers generally face no restrictions, each Canadian province has its own set of rules and fees. “Every province is in charge of its own real estate transactions,” said John E. Fletcher, a real estate lawyer based in Calgary. “We’re like 10 little countries in one big country, when it comes to real estate.”

In Alberta, he said, buyers are required to pay land title and mortgage registration fees, which are on a sliding scale based on the purchase price of a property and the loan amount.

Transactions are done in Canadian dollars. Financing is often available from local lenders, though nonresident borrowers will likely be required to make larger down payments. Nonresidents (and sometimes Canadians residing in another country) may also face a withholding tax on the capital gains when it comes time to sell their property, said Farouk Shivji, another Calgary real estate lawyer.

LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY

English, French; dollar (1 Canadian dollar = $0.74)

TAXES AND FEES

The seller usually pays the sales commission, which varies by brokerage firm. For this house, according to the listing information, it is a total of 7 percent on the first $100,000 of the sale price and 3 percent on the balance

Most of the closing costs are paid by the buyer, including legal expenses, typically averaging $1,000 to $1,500, and provincial fees.

The annual property taxes on this house are around $16,500, Mr. Plintz said.

Toronto Stock is Trying to Win a Share of Saudi Aramco IPO

Aramco

Toronto – Toronto Stock Exchange’s (TSX) continue with its efforts to win a part of the massive Saudi Aramco public listing with the country’s deep experience in natural resources as part of a broader offer to help Saudi Arabia with its shift away from oil dependence.

In pitch documents obtained by Reuters, TSX describes its leading position in oil and gas equity capital raising, and strong trading interest from outside the country.

The Canadian pitch is also broader than just for a part of the Aramco IPO. During several trips to the kingdom, most recent in March. Toronto Exchange’s owner TMX Group Ltd met with senior executives from some of the country’s biggest banks, brokerages and other financial institutions seeking a role in executing the kingdom’s broader Vision 2030 plan.

An informed source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they are focused on convincing the Saudis that Canada excels in 10 of the 12 areas they have targeted for development under that plan, including in mining and infrastructure.

Financial lawyers believe that the best chance of winning a part of the biggest IPO ever may lie in its geography and geopolitics. The IPO is expected to raise about $100 billion as early as next year.

“We feel that we have put TMX and Canada’s best foot forward and we continue to promote our strengths in pursuit of business opportunities in the region and around the world,” TMX said in a statement.

TSX may still come late in a race where larger exchanges in London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore participate, but its case could be enhanced after a US law that allows those affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue the Saudi government is passed.

Documents show that Canada-listed oil and gas companies raised 22 percent of global energy financing over the past five years and is second behind the NYSE’s 44 percent.